Bible Commentaries
Joshua 18

Simeon's Horae HomileticaeHorae Homileticae

Verse 3

[Note: For New Year’s Day.]

Joshua 18:3. And Joshua said unto the children of Israel, How long are ye slack to go to possess the land, which the Lord God of your fathers hath given you?

CONSISTENCY in religion is by no means an easy attainment. Certain duties may be performed with zeal, whilst others of a more difficult and self-denying nature are shamefully neglected. We admire and applaud the conduct of “the whole congregation of Israel” in relation to the tabernacle, which with one consent they “set up for the Lord in Shiloh,” as soon as ever “the land was subdued before them.” This mark of respect and gratitude, of love and devotion, was due to God in the first place: but should we not have expected, that they would immediately go on to complete the work which God had assigned them, and which they had almost brought to a successful termination? Yet behold, there were no less than seven tribes out of the twelve, who had not yet received their inheritance, and who manifested a most criminal indifference respecting the possession of their appointed portion. This negligence Joshua reproves in the words which we have read: for the elucidation of which we shall shew,


The force of the reproof as applied to them—

God had given them the land, and had so far subdued the inhabitants before them, that little remained but to go and take possession of the whole country. But they delayed, and their neglect brought a just reproof upon them;


For their indolence—

[It is manifest that they gave way to an indolent and slothful spirit, which kept them from making the exertions necessary for the acquisition of their respective lots. Now this is an habit which we are all too apt to indulge, and which has a most injurious effect wherever it prevails. Solomon speaks of it as rendering a man averse to the most necessary duties, insomuch that “his way is always like an hedge of thorns” that makes his every motion difficult and painful [Note: Proverbs 15:19.]. Hence he is impoverished; “The soul of the sluggard desireth, and hath nothing [Note: Proverbs 13:4.]:” even the attainments he has made are rendered unprofitable to him through the influence of this corrupt principle: “he roasteth not that which he took in hunting [Note: Proverbs 12:27.]:” in fact, as Solomon further observes, “The desire of the slothful killeth him [Note: Proverbs 21:25.].” Now to yield to this principle at any time is very reprehensible; but under their circumstances, when God had done so much for them, and there remained so little for them to do, it was highly criminal.]


For the undue satisfaction they took in their present comforts—

[Doubtless their present state formed a great contrast with that which they had experienced in the wilderness; for they enjoyed all the rich provisions which had been treasured up for the use of the former inhabitants. But, because they were at present possessed of such abundance, they were unmindful of that which was destined for their future and permanent support. Thus it frequently happens, that a present portion diverts men from the pursuit of an ulterior object, which would have more richly compensated their continued labours. Not that we mean to decry moderation; for, when it is seated in the desires without impeding our actions, we consider it as a distinguished virtue: but where a partial attainment of what is truly good, renders us indifferent to the fuller possession of that good, we regard that as an abuse of God’s goodness to us, and a perversion of what he designed for our encouragement. In the Israelites it argued base ingratitude to God, and was a very shameful method of requiting all his kindness to them.]


For the light thoughts which they entertained of their promised inheritance—

[It is evident that they did not regard it in the exalted light in which God had represented it to them: they thought but little of it as an inheritance assigned to them by the Deity, and still less as a type and emblem of that glorious inheritance reserved for his people in a better world. In this respect they are followed by the whole race of mankind. God bestows innumerable blessings on us, to lead up our minds to Him who gave them, and to stimulate us to the pursuit of far higher blessings: but we view these mercies only as they conduce to our present comfort, and entirely overlook the intention of the Donor: yea, we scarcely ever begin to think of spiritual benefits, till he has either withdrawn, or embittered to us our carnal enjoyments. In Israel, this conduct was peculiarly criminal, because the possession of this land had been promised to Abraham so many hundred years before, and had constituted the chief encouragement to the whole nation to devote themselves unreservedly to the service of Jehovah.]
The reproof however must not be confined to them; we must acknowledge,


The justice of it as applied to ourselves—

God has given to us a better inheritance, even heaven itself: and much has he done for us, in order to bring us to the possession of it. We speak not now of those who are yet “in darkness and the shadow of death,” but of those who have been “brought out of darkness into marvellous light:” yes, to the greater part of them is this reproof preeminently due. Let it only be considered how “slack” the professors of religion almost universally are in the pursuit of heaven; how slack, I say,


In reading the Scriptures—

[The sacred volume contains, not only the will which makes over to us the grant of this inheritance, but the title-deeds themselves, yea, a map also of the whole estate, a description of every thing that is valuable in it, and clear directions for securing to ourselves the everlasting possession of it. Now I would ask, What would be our employment, if such a document were put into our hands in reference to an earthly inheritance; especially if we were called to make out our title to it, and our ultimate enjoyment of it depended on proofs to be adduced from the records themselves? Should we not diligently apply ourselves to those records without loss of time? Should we not call in professional aid, and use every possible effort to establish our right? Should we find ourselves at ease whilst the issue of our exertions was doubtful? or should we waste our time in unprofitable pursuits, and thereby endanger the ultimate loss of our property through the craft and subtlety of an envious adversary? We all know how we should feel and act on an occasion like that. But how do we act in reference to the inspired volume? (I speak not of those who entirely neglect the Bible; their conduct speaks loudly for itself: I speak of those who do occasionally read the Scriptures.) Do we search that blessed book with half the interest that we ought? Do we mark every thing in it that can assist us either in discovering our title to heaven, or in securing the attainment of it? Let us ask ourselves, whether we do not often find less interest in it than in a common newspaper? and, though for conscience sake we read a portion of it every day, we find it oftentimes only a dead letter, and a sealed book, from whence we derive no real benefit. Does not this then shew how justly the reproof of “slackness” may be applied to us?]


In prayer—

[Prayer is that which brings down aid from above, and tends, more than any thing else, to the furtherance of the work of God within us. But O! what a poor, cold, formal service is prayer in general, even among those who profess to be looking for the enjoyment of heaven! But, what if we were professing great anxiety to reach a destined port, and yet carried no more sail than was just necessary to keep the vessel’s head towards it; and every storm threatened to drive us out of our course; and it was often doubtful whether the currents had not a more powerful influence to counteract our design, than the wind to further it; would any one believe that we were in earnest? It is by prayer that we catch the heavenly gales, and are advanced towards the land which we pretend to seek: let conscience say then, whether we carry the canvass which we might; or whether our secret aspirations justify our outward professions. Who amongst us, in the view of these holy duties, does not even reproach himself, and almost doubt his own sincerity?]


In the mortification of sin—

[In this we particularly resemble the Israelites of old. Because the armies of Canaan were no longer formidable to them, they overlooked the scattered remains which still occupied many strong-holds, and considered them as unworthy of their notice. And is it not thus with too many amongst ourselves? We are not any longer tempted to the commission of gross, open, scandalous iniquities; and therefore we rest satisfied with the victories we have gained, instead of prosecuting them to the utter extirpation of our indwelling corruptions. Look at many professors of religion: they will not be guilty of palpable dishonesty: yet will harbour covetous and worldly desires: they will not commit whoredom or adultery: yet will indulge much impurity in their imaginations. See the various parties in the Church: instead of exerting all their powers against their common enemy, they can waste their time in contending with each other: and even those who are united in the same Church too often weaken each other’s hands by mutual disagreements, instead of edifying each other by fervent love. Do not these things shew, how lukewarm we are in the prosecution of our best interests? Were we in earnest, as we ought to be, we should account sin our only enemy: and the extirpation of it would be the one labour of our lives.]


In pressing forward for the prize of our high calling—

[This distinguished the great Apostle of the Gentiles; he “forgot the things which were behind, and reached forward for that which was before:” and, after his example, we should account nothing attained, as long as any thing remains to be attained: we should consider victories only as steps to future conquests: and think it time enough to rest, when every enemy, even death itself, has been put under our feet. Instead of dreading the dissolution of our earthly tabernacle, we should groan for it, desiring to be dissolved, that we may be with Christ; yea, we should be “looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of Christ,” when our sanctification will be perfect, and our triumph complete. But, how far is this from being the experience of the generality of Christians! We seem to cleave to life, as if a state of pain and conflict were preferable to that of rest and happiness. Alas! alas! we live far below our privileges: whereas, if we were as heartily engaged in the work of our salvation as God requires us to be, we should manifest in our very countenances the radiance of God’s image, and bear about in our souls the felicity of heaven.]
That we may give more effect to this reproof, we will set before you,


The considerations which are proper to stir us up to diligence—



How much time you have lost already—

[What attainments might we not have secured, if, from the commencement of our warfare, we had made no truce with our enemies, but had followed up our advantages with becoming zeal! — — — Many may look back for years, and yet be scarcely able to point out one foot of ground that they have gained, beyond that which was ceded to them in their first conflicts. But we must not forget, that it is not he who begins well, but “he that endureth to the end, that shall be saved.”]


How your difficulties are increased by delay—

[Forty years after this time, the tribe of Dan had yet to fight for their inheritance [Note: Judges 18:1.]; and it was four hundred years before the Jebusites were driven from Jerusalem [Note: 2 Samuel 5:6-8.]. Had all the tribes proceeded with united vigour to fulfil the divine command in its utmost extent, they would not so long have had to lament that their remaining enemies were as “scourges in their side, and thorns in their eyes.” And who does not find, that corruptions gather strength by indulgence, and that graces decay for want of exercise? “Look then to yourselves, that ye lose not the things that ye have wrought, but that ye receive a full reward [Note: 2 John, ver. 8.].”]


How certain is your success, if ye advance in your work—

[The promise and oath of Jehovah are on your side. If there were any room for doubt respecting the ultimate success of your labours, there would be some little excuse for lukewarmness: but when victory is sure, methinks the most timid person in the universe should not fear the conflict, nor the weakest hesitate to put forth his strength. Go on then without fear; and “ye shall never fall, but so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ [Note: 2 Peter 1:10-11.].”]


How richly heaven will compensate for all your labours—

[What was Canaan, in comparison of the rest that is above? It is no uncommon thing for the ungodly to find fault with the Lord’s people as too strict, and to dissuade them from the exercise of so much zeal in the cause of Christ: but what would they think, if, like Paul, they were caught up to the third heavens, and beheld for a single hour those blest abodes? Would they think us then too much in earnest? Would they not rather stand amazed at the lukewarmness of those, whom they now condemn as “righteous overmuch?” They themselves cannot but feel the full force of this appeal: much more must you who are engaged in the service of the Lord, be well convinced, that “it is good to be zealously affected always in a good cause.” To you therefore we say, as the spies did to the neglectful Danites, “We have seen the land, and behold, it is very good: and are ye still? Be not slothful to go, and to enter to possess the land [Note: Judges 18:9.].”]

Bibliographical Information
Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Joshua 18". Simeon's Horae Homileticae. 1832.